Lots of us know Tik Tok as a place to watch old grandmas dance to upbeat pop music or 23-year-olds prank their parents, but there has also been a lot of buzz around it, especially in recent days. And if you are thinking that all of this is confusing, I don’t blame you. Continue reading for a simple explanation of what all the fuss is about and what is in stock for TikTok.
Needless to say, TikTok has been a very popular social media platform, hitting 2 billion downloads globally in April 2020. A couple of months later, a few countries around the world ordered a ban/limit on TikTok including Australia, Japan, and India. But, in July, things really took off in the United States when, during an interview, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, responded to the question of a potential ban on TikTok by saying, “we are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it”. One day later, on July 7, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, released a statement suggesting that a TikTok ban could serve the purpose of punishing China for the outbreak of the coronavirus. According to Business Insider, Trump said this: “Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful … Banning TikTok is one of many options I’m considering to punish China over the coronavirus.” Later in July, Trump announced that he planned to ban TikTok in the United States within 24 hours.
Almost immediately, large corporations reached out to buy TikTok and save it from being banned. After a deal didn’t work out for Microsoft and Walmart, Oracle settled a $12 billion deal with TikTok on September 14. Fast-forward a few months later and, on November 7th, Joseph R. Biden was confirmed president-elect. That made the future of Trump’s TikTok ban executive order even more uncertain. Nevertheless, the Trump Administration was relentless and on November 28, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) gave TikTok a 7-day time period to finalize a sale. This meant that they had until December 4th.
Now that we are past December 4th, I bet you’re wondering, “What’s gonna happen now?” Well, according to Bloomberg, “The current deadline will be overlooked while the discussions continue between the Trump administration and TikTok.” Some people believe that this will end up with the U.S. not enforcing any more deadlines for TikTok’s sale.
The Trump administration has been arguing that TikTok is a national security risk, to the extent that it was necessary for the US Commerce Department to issue an order to block downloads of TikTok back in September. According to Wired, “In addition to user data it automatically collects [like data copied to your clipboard], TikTok also has a vast trove of information about what videos millions of Americans are watching, and what topics they may be searching for on the platform.” My colleague, Vishnu Mano has written more about the dangers of social media. But, later on, Trump said that he approved of a bid by Oracle to create a new US-based application known as ‘TikTok Global’, although he never gave details about how this would be a better alternative in terms of security risks. That deal also requires final approval from China, which hasn’t come yet either.
As you can see, the past of TikTok is one of great popularity, the present is one of great confusion, and the future is one of great uncertainty. Nonetheless, TikTok is still available right now, so if you want to watch old grandmas dance to some upbeat pop music, do it while you can.